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What Jedd Fisch and Arizona players said after upset road win over No. 9 UCLA

arizona-wildcats-football-jedd-fisch-postgame-ucla-bruins-upset-victory-rose-bowl-reaction-interview Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

Arizona may have just had its program-changing victory, beating No. 9 UCLA 34-28 on Saturday night at the Rose Bowl.

Our full recap can be found here. Below is what coach Jedd Fisch, quarterback Jayden de Laura, running back Michael Wiley, defensive end Jalen Harris and linebacker Jacob Manu said after the massive upset win in Pasadena:

Fisch on the significance of the victory: “Well, that was a big win. That was a big win for the program, it was a big win for Arizona football. That meant a lot to our team today, meant a lot to our Southern California players, which we have I think 26 of them. Meant a lot to our staff, meant a lot to every player on our team. Meant a lot to Jayden, to come back after the game he played a week ago, and go 22 for 28 and 315 yards, 6 for 6 in the red zone and no turnovers. Meant a lot for our defense to get the stops they got. For Coach (Johnny) Nansen I’m sure it was personal, and did a fantastic job, as did Coach (Jason) Kaufusi in their preparation this week. But in the end, I would give the credit to our players. That was a fun game. Our players played hard, and they got to enjoy it in the locker room, which was awesome. And then we have two weeks left, that are guaranteed to us, and we’re gonna do everything we can to find a third after that. That was a very good football team we just beat, and we know that. It’s a top 10 team in the country, we went on the road and won, and we’re very proud to say that we did.”

On how the defense played: “I think it was pretty good to hold that team at 28 points. It’s probably one of the top five explosive offenses in college football. They’ve been scoring at a ridiculously high number each week. They’ve been doing this now with Dorian (Thompson-Robinson) for five years. Chip (Kelly) is a fantastic offensive coach. Dorian is a outstanding quarterback, and to hold that team at 28 points, Johnny, the whole defensive staff and the players did a great job.”

On the end of the 4th quarter: “Finishing was huge there. To stop them on fourth down, then to drive and use I think about four minutes of the clock, make them use their timeouts. Convert on two third downs in short yardage, to get ourselves in a situation where it was 4th and 5 on the 6. I felt at that point we were going to kick a field goal and make it a one-touchdown game. They had no timeouts, it was gonna be a minute left, to go up six. And then for our defense to play the way they did, keep them in bounds. I don’t think the clock stopped once, other than for a first down. So every time that they caught the ball in the middle of field, we got the tackle and use all 12 seconds, 14 seconds.”

On the play of the front seven: “We had three sacks, seven tackles for loss and pressured them. That’s the difference, right? We had a turnover today. So the last two weeks we’ve had three turnovers, three takeaways on defense. This week, we were plus-1 because we had no turnovers on offense. We had three penalties on the game. We had three sacks. We went to a span that we weren’t getting sacks, we weren’t getting pressures. And if you notice, there’s a enormous amount of new players coming in. And you can see Isaiah Ward and Sterling Lane and Jacob Kongaika and Ta’ita’i (Uiagalelei)n pressuring the quarterback. And then that’s allowing Jalen Harris and Kyon Barrs to be fresher, and Hunter Echols to be fresher. We’re playing with nine true freshmen in this game, I believe it was, which got to be the most I would think in the country.”

On de Laura: “I think Jayden made some special plays today. There’s some things, they’re not coachable. You can’t say hey, spin around, around, go backwards, come back forward, go backwards again, run around to the right and then complete the ball 30 yards down the field, but I do say great job. On the other side of it is, that’s what the really good ones can do. They can do things that are off schedule, and T-Mac, Mike Wiley on a scramble play, that was an unbelievable touchdown. Because he wasn’t supposed to be there, but when he saw Jayden take off, we practice that now every week, because we have to work with our quarterback and what his skills are.”

On scrambling but not to run: “The biggest coaching points that we make are, if a team is rushing less than four, you have more time than you could ever imagine. So scrambling is actually, we want you to scramble but stay behind the line of scrimmage. We want you to use your time there. You get a two-man rush or a three-man rush there, and there was no real benefit to go forward, because that’s nine guys to tackle you. But you do have a lot of time back there when that happens. And that’s when he was able to move around and make some plays. And that’s pretty cool when that happens.”

On trying to stop UCLA RB Zach Charbonnet: “I don’t think you can have a game plan to eliminate that guy. He’s a fantastic running back right. So he’s going to have a big game. They’re going to have guys that have big games. Dorian is going to usually have big games with his feet. They’re gonna have a great run scheme, that’s not surprising. But in the end, we limited them to 28 points and that was our game plan.”

On when to go for it or not on 4th down: “I think in each situation, they’re unique to the moment. You can’t really prepare for all of it. You can’t kind of run through in your head all week long, like okay, if it’s 4th and 5 on the 6, and we’re up three, what are we gonna do? If it’s 4th and 2, how are you gonna play the game? 4th and 3, we went for it and we hit Jacob (Cowing). On another one, we punted it and we pinned them back to the 1-yard line. And some of that goes down to, how you’re feeling with the play call, how you’re feeling with the protection. How are you feeling with what you’re gonna run and call in that situation? And then other times (it’s) your gut. I think there was a situation where we pinned them back and we we felt that was as good of a play as you could have made, we punted from midfield, we stopped them on the one. But they drove down and scored a touchdown. Well, the next time not going to do the same thing. So in that case, I felt like alright, it’s 4th than 3, this is a time that, rather than kick a field goal, I wanted to go see if we could get more points because I know who we’re playing.”

On if he considered going for it on the last drive before kicking the field goal: “I did. I made them talk me out of it. I said to the assistant coaches, you guys have 10 seconds to talk me out of going for right now, go. And no one said a word. But our quarterback said just kick it and go up six,s o it’s kind of what we went with. I think that was the right decision at that time. It would have been a better move ... I didn’t want them to be able to just get. We weren’t kicking the ball very well on our kickoffs, right, but on the same token, it was like they could go 70 (yards) and tie the game. I was trying to play the whole game, the math game in my head, but in the end, I’m like, they have no timeouts, and they have a minute left and our defense is playing great football.”

On Tia Savea’s blocked field goal: “It was a really big play in the game, as we know, because the game would have been 31-all. I thought the momentum there was huge just to get the stop, to force them (to kick), and we put our big block team up to get that block. And that was big, it was nice to have Tia back, and it’s a big-time play for him as a former UCLA player to be here and then get that block.”

On if this win is a turning point for the program: “I just think that we’re in the middle of a build that we’ve been talking about all year round. We’ve said from the very beginning, I believe this is year one. I think last year when we got here, we did a lot of different things structurally just to get back to ground zero. And then this year, we felt like it was year one, and we’ve won four games. We would like to win two more, but we’re going to just continue to build and grow and look at getting better every week rather than focusing in necessarily on the final outcome and just know that if our team continues to get better, more recruits will want to come here. And if more recruits want to come here, our team will keep getting better.”

On if the team was surprised about winning: “Our team expects to win every game they play, so I don’t think that our team was any more or less surprised. They get more surprised, I think, when we don’t win then when we do. And that’s what we’ve tried to push to them, over the course of this season, and they were excited about this one, it meant a lot. It really did. It meant a lot to all of us personally and professionally, and it was fun to watch our kids smile and dance.”

On if beating UCLA meant more to him and other former Bruins coaches: “I think for all of us, as coaches, it’s our responsibility to put together the best possible plan for our players. Regardless of if you’ve coached at a team or not. I don’t know if you’ve seen my resume, but I’ve coached a lot of them. I would just say in this case, for me, it’s just a matter of, hey, our job is to play the best we can every Saturday, and it’s my job to call the best game I can on offense and to prepare our team the best I can. And it’s not personal in that regard as much as it for our team to be able to get wins.”

On controlling the clock: “We had 34 1/2 minutes time of possession in this game. And four minutes of it came in that final drive where we made them use all their timeouts. I didn’t throw a pass, maybe one bubble or something like that because a blitz that was coming. We felt like that was the way to play his game. We felt like that was the way at the end, we didn’t want to give them any time left. So for us to chew it up the best we could, we could have gotten a first down at the end on the one, but we wound up on 4th and 5.”

On the postgame celebrations: “It’s pretty cool. It was really cool. And I’m excited for our players, and it was great. Their smiles make all the difference in the world. It’s why you coach college football, so you can go and look at the smiles of 18- to 22-year olds that absolutely were ecstatic when the game ended.”

On being able to jump out to a 14-0 lead: “We’re a pretty good offense, and I think that our players are very confident when they go out there. We have very high standards and high expectations to score when we have the opportunity to touch the ball. We were disappointed we didn’t score the first draft. And we scored on the second and third. But our guys, it’s their preparation and it’s their willingness to work and watch tape and understand the opponent and try to get better every week. We’ve got a long, long way to go to be the type of team that we want to be. But we’re one week better than we were last week.”

On being able to rotate so many guys on the defensive line: “I think it’s huge. If we could have done it earlier we would have, just to keep guys fresher. I think you could see the freshness of the pass rush when you could substitute more defensive lineman through. I looked the other day, I think our three receivers have played the most amount of plays in all of college football because we really haven’t had an opportunity to substitute a lot of players on our team right now as we’re building the depth. The group that we’ve been able to try to get more young guys in is at the D-line. So when you start seeing Kongaika and Ta’ita’i and Isaiah Ward and Deuce Lane and Duece Davis, that’s five true freshmen.”

On LT Jordan Morgan: “I think he’ll be okay, first of all, but we did hold him out for precautionary reasons to make sure everything is structurally fine with his lower body. But I think he’ll be fine, but we wanted to make sure of it based on a lot of reasons. There was some things that we had to deal with. There was an opportunity that we had T-Mac on a shallow crosser on a third down that we wound up having a protection issue that we got to work through. There’s a couple of things, but I thought Sam (Langi) came in and did a great job. You’re going against a guy who had eight sacks, and he battled and did a great job all game.”

De Laura on the postgame reactions: “I was showing emotion, just happy for the team, all the hard work we have put through. We’ve had close games throughout that year that we couldn’t close out. Just knowing that we closed out this one is a good setup for the next two weeks. It’s just a testament to what everyone on the team went through during the offseason and even in the years before.”

On Wiley: “It makes my job about 10 or 15 times easier. I know that he has a good sense of space. He runs the ball, (he’s) one of the best athletes that I’ve been around. But just having the trust in him, knowing that he’ll get open. Everything came together for us.”

Wiley on the meaning of the win: “It means a lot, just being at this school and the work that I’ve put in, the work that this team has put in, this win just shows how it pays off for us.”

On what was different about this game than previous ones: “The level of execution, especially in the red zone, I think in the past we had to get better at that. I think this game showed that we worked on it all throughout this week, you know, we worked hard, practiced hard and it paid off today.”

On getting the ball a lot on the final drive: “That’s what I wanted, I wanted to close the game out, I wanted that pressure on me because I knew I could take it. I wanted that on my shoulders.”

On where this win ranks for him: “This is number one, this is number one right here. I love it. The effort, the overall team win. There were a lot of emotions out there, we wanted it badly. I hadn’t beaten a ranked team since I’ve been here. That’s just phenomenal.”

On the defense: “Our defense has been working, the amount of effort we put in week in and week out, we don’t care what the outside says. We are just going to keep working, and, you know, defense came through today. We played complimentary football, and that’s how you play winning football.”

Harris on his postgame feelings: “It felt good. We wanted to come out here and compete, and we felt like we could win. I just know defensively we know our offense is going to score, so we just wanted to come out and focus on one stop at a time and get that stop, and I think we did that tonight.”

On the last defensive possession: “Basically, we just wanted to have our best pass rushers in, and they want to affect the quarterback, and have our coverage guys covering, and they did that.”

On the gameplan against UCLA QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson: “We did a good job. He’s a great athlete and a great runner. We wanted to keep him in the pocket and make him make some throws. We think we did an okay job of doing that tonight.”

On where this game ranks for him: “Probably number one for me. But it’s not going to be as good as the next one. We’re just focused on the next one.”

Manu on the game emotions: “It was big for me because I have a lot of family here. Especially for me and the team, this is the biggest win that we’ve had so far. It’s a Top 10 team. It was a big win for the whole team.”

On defending Charbonnet: “He’s a great player, shoutout to him, but I felt Coach Nansen put us in the right positions to make the stops that we needed.”